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Organised Crime and Terrorism

Volume 611: debated on Wednesday 8 June 2016

6. What discussions she has had with the Irish Government on cross-border efforts to stop organised crime and terrorism. (905253)

In December, as part of the implementation of the “Fresh Start” agreement, I attended a meeting with the Irish Government and Northern Ireland Executive at which we agreed on new measures to enhance co-operation on cross-border organised crime.

I strongly welcome the arrangements that have been agreed as part of the “Fresh Start” agreement, but does the Secretary of State agree that there must be both strategic and operational co-operation to dismantle gangs and their activities?

I would agree, and that is exactly what is happening. The new joint agency taskforce established as a result of the “Fresh Start” agreement enables exactly that kind of operational co-operation on cross-border crimes such as fuel laundering, human trafficking and drug smuggling, and I welcome the progress that has been made on that.

Does the Secretary of State agree that is really important that cross-border crime should be tackled as part of the follow-up to the panel’s report on paramilitary activity? It will continue whether we are in the European Union or outside it, and it must be tackled head on.

There is absolute determination on the part of the Governments of the UK and Ireland and the law enforcement agencies of both countries that we should continue to do everything we can to co-operate in countering the terrorist threat and the criminality associated with terrorist and paramilitary groups.

The Secretary of State must recognise how much organised crime—including cross-border crime—is derived from paramilitarism, and how much it uses networks and assets that have been accrued under paramilitary campaigns. Does she therefore agree that any serious effort to eradicate paramilitarism on a whole-community and whole-enforcement basis cannot ignore such criminal enterprises with menaces, which are the vestiges of paramilitarism?

I agree, and it will be well worth considering the views in the panel’s report on the laws that apply to organised crime in Scotland and the ways of cracking down on this kind of criminality there. It will be worth considering whether we could learn lessons from Scotland and impose statutory changes of that nature in Northern Ireland.